The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight against segregation, retired from the ministry Sunday, delivering his final sermon as pastor of the church he founded 40 years ago.
Shuttlesworth, who celebrated his 84th birthday this weekend, survived threats, beatings and attempts on his life during the civil rights movement in Birmingham and Selma, Ala. In his sermon, he recalled the night 50 years ago when someone set off dynamite outside his bedroom window in Birmingham.
“They were going to blow me to heaven that night. It had my name on it,” Shuttlesworth said. “But I heard him say, ’Be still! God is here. Wherever you are I will be with you.”’
About 300 people attended Sunday’s service at the Greater New Light Baptist Church, including Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid, who said Shuttlesworth “single-handedly changed the world.”
“This man is anointed by God. He’s the Moses of African Americans, especially as it relates to Birmingham,” Kincaid said.
Shuttlesworth, who will cede the pulpit to his son-in-law, the Rev. Harold Bester, downplayed such praise.
“We are too quick to look for exaltations,” he said during his sermon. “The best thing we can do is be a servant of God. It does good to stand up and serve others.”
Shuttlesworth said last year that the removal of a non-cancerous brain tumor in August prompted him to retire earlier than planned.
He founded his first church in Selma in 1948 and moved from Alabama to Cincinnati in 1962.